The Charles H. Taylor Visual Arts Center
A Cornerstone of the Community
That handsome building on the corner of Victoria Boulevard and Kecoughtan Road in downtown Hampton has been a vibrant center of learning, exploration and creativity for more than eight decades thanks to the farsighted vision of a “recent” transplant to Hampton from Boston, Mrs. Grace Taylor Armstrong. It was in 1925 that Mrs. Armstrong, married to a decorated soldier, Captain Matthew Armstrong, made the decision to create a living memorial to her father, General Charles H. Taylor (who was the Founder and Managing Editor of The Boston Globe). Mrs. Armstrong conveyed in trust the land and building to be known as “The Charles H. Taylor Memorial Library — for the use and benefits of the residents of Elizabeth City County, including the City of Hampton and the incorporated Towns and communities within said County.” The Armstrong family was also very instrumental in the establishment and growth of Hampton University then known as Hampton Institute. Armstrong Hall on the campus is now the home of the University’s theatre department.
Modeled after a particular favorite building of Mrs. Armstrong — the Courthouse in Elizabeth City County — the Charles H. Taylor building served as the central library in Hampton for more than 60 years. Generations of Hamptonians (and visitors) recall with joy the grandeur and scale of the children’s room complete with majestic fireplace and crown molding which remains a beautifully proportioned and engaging room.
In 1987, the Charles H. Taylor Memorial Library closed when the City of Hampton built the expanded Hampton Public Library right next door. The Library grew from a mere 8,000 or so square footage to more than 50,000! After careful renovation and adaptation and adhering to the guidelines set forth in Mrs. Armstrong’s bequest, the historic building re-opened in January 1989 as The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center. In 2018, the center was renamed as The Charles H. Taylor Visual Arts Center to more accurately reflect the visual arts component of Hampton Arts. The estate of Mrs. Armstrong owns the building and leases it to the City of Hampton which manages day-to-day operations through the department of Hampton Coliseum/Hampton Arts Commission.
The Charles H. Taylor Visual Arts Center is a gallery, which showcases the work of artists from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and from the Mid-Atlantic region. It is also a showcase for up and coming artists and their teachers in all media, the home of prestigious juried exhibitions, the home of a rapidly growing studio program and an ongoing series of lectures, workshops, demonstrations and seminars.
In 2005 the building turned 80 years old. The Armstrong Galleries comprise the original parts of the building and are named in honor of the donor. The Chapman Gallery is named in honor of Harold and Elizabeth Chapman who were, for many years, leading influences on the artistic and cultural life of the Peninsula. The second floor of the Arts Center has been opened up to create much more gallery space as well as studio space for our ever expanding curriculum of year round classes for adults and children. Exhibitions change approximately every six weeks.